With Denis Villeneuve at the helm, Blade Runner 2049 is worthy sequel to one of sci-fi’s most influential film
As a cinephile, I tend to prefer original, different, and daring films. However, I’m completely stuck in a time where creative content is scarce. It’s a time where Hollywood likes to play it safe and what’s safer than sequels, remakes, and franchises. But who can blame them? These type of films tend to do more at the box office, and the audience seems to keep making that demand. But there comes Blade Runner 2049, a sequel that defies all odds. A continuation of one of sci-fi’s most controversial film but at the same time, it’s a stand-alone film, only inhabiting the Blade Runner universe. 2049 shows us how to make a great sequel and why they are so important.
For much of its ad campaign, Villeneuve and Warner Brothers have been able to keep a lot of Blade Runner 2049‘s premise a secret. In order with those wishes, I’ll tell you only a brief premise. Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner whose duty is to “retire” all replicants. On his journey, he finds secrets, and that lead him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.
In tune with the original, 2049 is a slow-burning sci-fi noir filled with mystery and surprises. The film moves at a slow pace taking its time to introduce all its characters and dedicating plenty of time to the magnificent world that Ridley Scott had imagined in 1982. Although it does follow that same style, Villeneuve takes liberty in making his own stylistic choices while still keeping it synonymous with the original. Its a film able to stand on its own while still enriching the mythology of the first. Even if in its basic term it is a sequel, Villeneuve isn’t interested in franchise making. His interest lies most with creating art on a bigger canvas.
Like all his films, he crafts 2049 like an art film. Villeneuve doesn’t let the word blockbuster influence is choices. 2049 isn’t like your typical action-packed blockbuster for the whole family. Instead, it’s not afraid to let silence and slowness be its compass. There are moments of pure beauty, and even when Villeneuve decides to put action, it’s at a time when the film asks for it and not only to fulfill the viewer’s need. He treats blockbuster filmmaking just as he treated his more independent films.
Villeneuve’s longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins hits it out of the park with his flawless cinematography. Throughout, Deakins consistently produces crisp and immaculate shots playing with color, lighting, and style. The sequel is filled with brightly colored shots complimenting the pretty set design. While the first film had beautiful cinematography, Deakins has frankly surpassed it making it his best work of his whole career. It’s such beautiful work that could mean an Oscar is not too far away.
Deakins and Villeneuve aren’t the only ones on top of their game. Hans Zimmer has made a Vangelis inspired score that manages to have his signature style. His loud pounding synth-heavy score compliment Villeneuve’s terrific atmosphere. Just like Dunkirk earlier this year, Zimmer’s score and the excellent sound design creates a sense of urgency while still being atmospheric. Together, they form a suspenseful and film noir feeling on-par with the original.
An excellent sequel not only means to follow suit with the original but also explore its own territory. Blade Runner 2049 further develops the themes of the original, while exploring other issues as well. In Blade Runner, Scott explores human nature, consciousness, marketing, pollution, and doing God. In 2049, Villeneuve explores all the same aspects but adds to them in a big way. Interestingly, he also decides to investigate other subjects such as the objectification of women in a futuristic world. The film is filled with images of women’s bodies, and this is precisely what Villeneuve is trying to convey. Even as our society is trying to achieve gender equality, technology is actively countering our progress only furthering the objectification of women. As depressing as it may be, Villeneuve certainly believes that the future doesn’t look favorable for women.
By its very definition, Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel, but it manages to be so much more. What Villeneuve has crafted, here, is an artistic blockbuster that feels more Solaris than Captain America. It doesn’t seem fazed by the restrictions of making a sequel as Villeneuve takes liberty in pushing those very limits. With Zimmer’s loud pulsating score and Deakins’ pristine cinematography, 2049 can’t help but merge blockbuster and arthouse aesthetic, echoing back to a time where this was more common. Even as a sequel, 2049 manages to be original, different, and daring some of the defining words for great cinema.
Blade Runner 2049 comes out in theatres on October 6.